The Forty Fourth Year


First of all, thank you to all of you who have asked about Mom. For those of you that don’t know, she had a small stroke two weeks ago and it has affected her left side and her speech. Her speech is slowing coming back but she is tired and weaker and I made the decision to start hospice care last Thursday. She is still loving and funny…just weaker. She still slaps my butt every time she catches me or the girls. I catch a half smile from her when she does.

This has been strange for me, being on the other end of hospice care. My background has been cardiac care with more recent, home care and hospice. It was strange to answer questions and not the one asking them. In the past few days, I have signed more paperwork than I can count. I have also been on the phone with the economic assistance program and Department of Aging for three hours last week. We ordered a new wheelchair, discontinued some medications, spoke to the bath aide, encouraged a pastor visit and music therapy, requested a massage and finally today, spoke to the social worker. All through this, my friends and family have helped me, mainly my husband. Steve…I thank you and love you. My girls have taken her for walks, gotten her ready for bed, scratched her back and given her Ensure. I’m so proud of them, sometimes I could burst. Here is hoping one of them will decide on medicine. They can also take care of Steve and I when we get old.

Today, I met with the social worker and I was asked to describe Mom. I sit and look at this simple piece of paper and think of how I can articulate mom’s life. How can you write everything down that is in your heart and do her justice?

I would want this social worker to know that she loves toast and cheese and that she makes doughnuts from scratch. I want her to know that I taught her how to drive a stick shift in her mid-sixties and how it took forever for her to learn on that old, tan Ford Escort.

I want her to know that she tried for twenty years to have children. I’m sure watching her brothers, her sister and friends have babies and she being unable to conceive. I want her to know that she finally got a boy and girl and how much she adored us. You don’t have to carry a baby for nine months to be a mother.

I would love if she knew how much she loved starting the day with coffee and a long walk. How she did leg kicks and stretches in the morning to stay fit. She needs to know that Mom loved playing the slot machines in Yuma, but only playing the nickels.

Of course I will fill her in on her love of all children, helping with Girl Scouts, Sunday School, Bible Choir and her devotion to Sophia and Emme. She always said she waited a lifetime for those two and we have fifty quilts she handmade to prove it.

She would need to know that even when she was getting more forgetful, she would still remember to send me stamps in the mail and buy Steve white tube socks. I would remind the social worker of how much she loves Steve and all of her nieces and nephews. Always a card with a little money in it.

My parents were married for sixty years and during that time together she traveled, hunted for mushrooms, canned everything and anything, searched for agates, entertained friends, helped with reports and looked for my shoes at night, knowing that I finally was home, safe and sound. She told me that years later. Good for me to remember.

I want to share with her that she read at night, hummed while she baked, was deathly afraid of snakes and once killed a bat with a tennis racket. She loved being tan, was a devout Lutheran and never pierced her ears.

Lastly, I want her know what a good mother she is. Always helping, always busy, always caring and always loving. Its hard to sum up your mother on one sheet of paper. Oh, and she could make anything out of rhubarb and her lemon bars are amazing.

She and I have been together forty four years. I am so lucky.


The Cry


This picture was taken last week, upon our return from vacation. I love that they are holding hands and that for that day, she remembered Sophia’s name. They chatted like they normally do and she got to slap Sophia’s bare legs, which has been her recent way of communication. We also brought her a big cupcake from Gigi’s and I think she was in heaven.

Fast forward to last night and her small stroke. I have noticed that things happen when you are the busiest. Yesterday was the first day of school and I was up early. Work was busy and I got to try a new fitness class after work. Finally noting missed calls on my phone and talking with Steve, he told me mom had a stroke.

Stroke. What is the word you don’t really want to hear? Stroke.

I found her sitting in a chair, glasses crooked and her beautiful face drooping on the left side. Her first words? “Where have you been?” I laughed. Her speech is garbled but I can understand her. The nurse gives me a quick update but I can tell. Just when I finally got her to eat and back on track from her hospital stay, we have a set back.

I ask her if she can walk with me and I can feel myself assessing her. She is weaker on her left side but able to walk and her field cut seems ok. She notices her church she built that looks like her Fron Church and I ask the staff if I can get her ready for bed. She slaps my bare thighs and I know she is feeling better after the slow walk.

She is a little confused and she asks, “What’s wrong with me?” I tell her that I think she had a small stroke and that her speech is a little goofy right now. She asks me to scratch her back and I can tell she is tired. We finish all of her cares and I get her into bed. I can tell her eyes are not as wide open any more and her speech is worse as she gets into bed with her baby, AKA Jodi. She pats my face and tells me, “Thank you for helping me”. I can clearly understand that jumbled speech. I hadn’t cried since I arrived but I can feel the tears start. She watches me and starts to tear up also. She states, “I want to die” over and over and over and over and over again.

I haven’t seen my mom cry since my dad died, seven years ago. Part of this disease is that it robs people of emotion…she rarely smiles, never cries and states things that are not the most appropriate. The filter is gone and so is the ability to show that emotion that I sometimes long for.

I hate that this is happening to her and I am hoping that it is resolved. I feel like we are on a roller coaster with this disease. One thing after another. Highs and lows. Happy and sad. At times, it is exhausting but you feel you can’t complain because it could be worse. Much worse.

I put the picture of my dad right by her bed and tell her he will watch out for her tonight. She stares at it and I wonder if she can see it, due to the stroke. The last thing she asks is, “Am I alive?” I tell her yes and that you are not in heaven yet. I’m teasing her but she doesn’t respond. She’s already asleep, that quick.

Today, I’m writing this with her and her speech is still the same and we went for a short walk. I have a call in for her doctor and I am watching her eat a mini doughnut I brought her. Another day.

Finally, thank you for all the loving and kind words for my mom. I told her that I let my friends and family know that she was not feeling the best and that they were thinking of her and praying. That seemed to bring her comfort. It takes a village sometimes and I thank the people who offered help. Leanne, you are the best cook ever and we loved your chicken pot pie. What a blessing. Thanks also to the friends who offered help with the girls.

The journey continues…<3